Will this WFH Experiment Shape the Future of our Workplace?

Will this WFH Experiment Shape The Future of our Workplace?

The new work environment is being determined now

The future of work looks a lot different now than a few weeks ago. We’re practicing social distancing and employees everywhere have been forced into remote work. The current global events are creating uncertainty in our lives — socially, health-wise, and professionally as well.

As COVID-19 forces a large-scale work from home (WFH) experiment, we can’t help but wonder if the disease will propel us into a lifestyle that would have emerged 20 years into the future when the distinctions between work, home, and in-between all dissolve.

Trends in modern society: Bring work home and vice versa

As almost anyone with a successful career will tell you, sometimes you need to bring work home. Be it evening emails or weekend work, this regular practice spurred dedicated office spaces in the home long ago. 

More and more, the lines between work and home have become ambiguous.

We’ve also seen the trend the other way: work has come to resemble home more than ever before. Employees have asked for spaces to relax and decompress. Employers continually respond and provide meditation rooms, designated nap spaces, and quiet spaces to regroup and disconnect from work.

Current trend: WFH

And today’s most popular trend among the next generation of the workforce? Work-life balance, flexibility and wellness. For many, this balance is best achieved through a work from home arrangement, aka telecommuting or remote work.

Even before COVID-19 made remote workers out of previously on-site office professionals, the calls for more remote opportunities or flexible WFH arrangements are on the rise. Ninety-nine percent of employees want the opportunity to WFH, at least part-time. 

It’s not hard to see why — collaboration tools like Slack, Zoom, and Trello create agile work environments along with the importance of work systems such as BIM (Building Information Modeling), 3D printing and AR (Augmented Reality) in the AEC industry.

Remote teams report higher productivity and increased loyalty to their companies. With WFH arrangements, individuals can avoid the rising rent and cost of living in metro areas while still having a great job. And perhaps most importantly — remote workers have the flexibility to manage their schedules for greater work-life balance and wellness. 

Some industries have answered the need for remote work with openness, while others have not. It’s no surprise that tech composes the largest percentage of remote workers according to Global Workplace Analytics.

Source: Global Workplace Analytics.com

The 44% of global organizations that still don’t allow for remote work cite concerns about:

  • Loss of employee productivity
  • Issues with miscommunication
  • Inability to effectively manage teams
  • Employee isolation

But in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, formerly remote-reticent employers haven’t had much of a choice. The stay at home order mandate has forced a massive social-professional experiment and pulled much of the modern world into it.

Not everyone can work remotely —  the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports 29% of percent of the US workforce is capable of working remotely. And these professionals are currently telecommuting whether or not the infrastructure to make remote work successful was in place before the crisis.

Despite our lack of preparedness in going remote overnight, the results are bound to reveal something about our future home and workspaces. What happens when the lines between home and work are increasingly blurred?

The Workplace of the Future: At Home?

We don’t know how long social distancing will last. There’s a lot left to be determined. But one thing that seems clear is that the remote work experiment we’ve been forced into is permanently shifting the world of work. The future is almost guaranteed to exist more fluidly between work and home. 

What will this look like? What does bringing modern work into the home mean?

  • Broadband access speeds or 5G wifi will be ubiquitous
  • A dedicated office space as part of the basics of a residential home, alongside a kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom
  • Potential for companies to invest in shared living spaces for employees to live and work from in lieu of offices

Here to Stay: Resilience and Remote Work

Will these scenarios bring people including families closer together? Cut down on the environmental impact that are so closely tied to the American commute? Will we be able to remain focused, productive, and collaborative in physical and mental spaces that lack clear delineation between work and home? 

With questions swirling in from every direction, one thing is for certain: the future will look different, and the current COVID-19 pandemic will emerge as the shaping force of this landscape. Yet this great sense of shared humanity we’re all currently experiencing will too. Our deepest hope is for a bright and unified future — at work and at home —  on the other side of it all.

How has your transition to remote work been? Do you miss the water cooler chatter, or are you finding respite in focused time along? Share your experiences below!


2019 San Francisco workplace office design trends

2019 Workplace design predictions

2019 Workplace Design Predictions

2019 San Francisco workplace office design trends

These trends will Influence your office's corporate real estate footprint

As we kick off 2019 by partnering with clients new and old, we’re excited to pause and consider what design trends will shape our workplace in the coming year.

In 2018, we saw more companies focusing on designing for wellness and creating flexible workspaces where employees can seek solitude or work collaboratively. Here are six workplace trends our team thinks facilities managers and real estate professionals will be focusing on in 2019.

More flex space

Since open offices are here to stay, we predict flexible workspaces that allow both focused, independent work and group projects to become even more of a priority. More importantly, it’s what employees want: 53% of employees surveyed in mid-2018 value working in different spaces throughout the day.

Many clients have been adding additional non-work spaces for collaboration, such as coffee bars or micro-kitchens. These spaces offer opportunities for interaction between teams and the casual exchange of ideas.

Increased focus on the outdoors

Given the studies that show incorporating plant life into your workspace can help ease employee stress, we expect more companies will start introducing outdoor elements to their designs. Biophilic design, which involves using natural design elements like sources of natural light and fresh air, is especially appealing for departmental managers seeking to improve team productivity and reduce mental strain.

This could come in the form of living walls and more houseplants in communal spaces. It could also be created by placing open office desks near windows for employees to enjoy throughout the day and shared communal spaces on the interior of the floor plate.

More comfortable, home-like spaces

Research suggests that more comfortable office spaces can improve productivity. Some companies, such as our client Redbubble, created a soothing home environment by fashioning a meeting space after a cozy library.

Redbubble cozy library and meeting space

More growth into co-working spaces

Most people think co-working spaces are only for freelancers and small businesses. However, many larger companies are busting that myth and leasing co-working spaces to provide flexibility in their real estate strategy.

In mid-2018, Facebook announced that it would be leasing almost all of WeWork’s latest co-working space in Mountain View, California. We suspect more companies will be following Facebook’s lead in 2019. Partnerships with co-working spaces allow larger companies to get available office space faster for projects requiring a quick turnaround, without requiring a large spend on buildout.

More retrofitting old warehouses

Companies continue to look for ways to differentiate their facilities from others in order to attract top talent. One strategy that will continue to gain traction is be renovating old buildings, such as warehouses, into high-tech office space. The exposed beams and high ceilings add character to an office and are defining elements for tech companies such as Gusto. The HR software company recently renovated Pier 70 in San Francisco to create a fresh, unique space for employees to work and collaborate.

What facilities or workplace trends do you think we’ll be seeing more of in 2019? We'd love to hear from you!

Retrofitting old warehouses for modern office workspaces trending for 2019 and beyond.
Gusto’s new home at Pier 70 tells a story about history, community, and relationships. Photo credit to Gensler.